Saturday, September 09, 2006

Apple Harvest

Nothing says "The Holidays" better than the smell of a fresh baked apple pie just out of the oven. The hot cinnamon and tart apple scent as it washes through out of the kitchen and through the house will bring a smile to my face every time. Nothing is better, except maybe hot apple turnovers made with flaky crusts served with butter pecan ice cream. Yummy!

But, I'm getting ahead of my self. To make an apple pie, or even turnovers, you have to have a good apple pie filling. I know many a cook who use the canned apple pie filling and made a great pie, but I've always preferred fresh filling. Firm, slightly tart apples cut into either slices or chunks then mixed with sugar, cinnamon, and a thickening agent such as arrowroot powder and you have the perfect filling. Throw in some raisins and maybe a handful of walnuts and you have something truly special.

We are lucky enough to live near an operating apple orchard that sells many varieties of apples starting in early September. It is great when you want apples just to stop by on the way home from work and buy what you need. At least it is great when the apples are in harvest. Otherwise we have to buy apples that have little or no taste from the grocery stores. It is doubly upsetting that these apples are imported from other countries rather than the product of our own country.

Last year we found out that the orchard sells "C" grade, or cooking apples for only $8.00 per half bushel. C grade apples are those apples that are slightly bruised, odd shaped, or otherwise to blemished to sell to the more picky apple aficionados. Since I planned to made Apple Jam, Apple Butter, and an apple pie or two we were more than willing to save money and get a large quantity of apples. We quickly discovered that a half bushel of apples is a very large amount of apples. At the end of my stint in the kitchen we still had a rather large number of apples left and PeterC had eaten so many apples that he smelled like apple juice.

While flipping through the pages of my various cookbooks looking for ideas, I saw a recipe in the Company's Coming Preserves cookbook for apple pie filling. Since I was at a loss for what to do with the extra apples and the recipe made only one quart at a time I gave it a try. I admit I was hooked on the first taste. The fresh filling tasted great but the filling that sat sealed in the jar until Christmas was wonderful. The cinnamon had infused the apples in a subtle way and the tapioca starch thickening agent didn't break down like so many others. Best of all, the recipe is easy enough to alter for a lower sugar version for those trying to trim extra calories.

This year I decided to make several quarts of home made apple pie filling and put it in our root cellar. We bought a half bushel of Joyce and a half bushel of Ida Red apples from the orchard. We made 7 quarts of apple pie filling plus enough extra to make apple cinnamon bread today. We still have quite a few apples left so we plan on making a couple batches of apple butter and maybe some apple sauce. Any apples left over will be made into filling and given to friends as gifts.

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